Mobile students earn more, study finds

Those who spend part of their degree overseas tend to earn more in their first job and are less likely to be unemployed six months after graduating

March 12, 2015
Young male student walking to airport departure lounge

Undergraduates who travel abroad as part of their degree have better job prospects than students who stay in the UK for the duration of their course, a study says.

A report by the UK Higher Education International Unit, based on analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency data on the 2013 graduating cohort, says that 5.4 per cent of home-domiciled students who went overseas to study, work or volunteer as part of their programme were unemployed six months after leaving university. In comparison, 6.7 per cent of graduates who had not had any international experience were out of work.

The report says that “mobile” graduates tended to earn more in their first job than their non-mobile counterparts across 40 out of 67 subject areas, with average salary disparities of more than £3,000 found in five fields, including computer science and electronic engineering.

Students who had gone overseas were also more likely to be working abroad, the report adds, with 11 per cent of them in this category, compared with 2 per cent of graduates without international experience.

The report does not attempt to establish a causative relationship between international experience and employment outcomes, and acknowledges that some overseas opportunities will be based on academic performance.

But it notes that 87 per cent of students who went abroad got a first or 2:1, compared with 69 per cent of those who stayed in the UK.

Vivienne Stern, director of the UK HE International Unit, said: “We know anecdotally that spending time abroad has a positive impact both academically and in increasing students’ employability. The research tests this hypothesis and…points to some short-term positive outcomes for mobile students, compared with their non-mobile peers, that may become greater over time.”

Students from the most privileged backgrounds are three times as likely to have had an international experience than those from the poorest families. However, the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who went overseas has increased, from 2.8 per cent in 2002-03 to 3.2 per cent in 2012-13.

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